The joys of watching cricket on HD
Ireland and Kevin O'Brien provided the World Cup its most joyous day yet, and while I would have loved to be at the ground, I had the next best viewing option available. My HD (high-definition) set-top box had arrived the day before, and what a joy it was to watch the crystal-clear pictures on wide screen - and, would you believe it, without a single ad.
As the match went on - and even though there were periods during England's innings when it was a one-way street, the clean feed kept me engaged - it became apparent how much of the game the India television viewer misses out on. You watched batsmen walk off the pitch after being dismissed. Alex Cusack went stoically, betraying no emotion. O'Brien went to a hero's ovation, but you could see the mixed emotions as he acknowledged the cheers; he had played the innings of his life but the job wasn't over yet, and indeed it could go all wrong from there.
You also saw captains setting the field; batting partners having a chat; there were a few more graphics; and you heard commentators discuss a wicket after it has just fallen and, on other occasions, you heard them making small talk. And often, between the overs, the camera just lingered on the stands, going into the viewing balconies, and sometimes hanging idly over the field. Cricket is a contemplative game with lots of pauses, and it was nice for a change to feel those pauses as a television viewer.
A few weeks ago, we devoted an entire Timeout show to the awfulness of the television experience for the Indian fan. The coverage of the World Cup so far has been far better - less ads, better commentary - but given the cost of rights, and that the cable industry isn't the most transparent, it is unrealistic to expect the kind of broadcast available in England or Australia. The takeaway from the discussion was that, at the very least, the consumer needed to be given another option, and that option given, he should be prepared to pay.
That option is available during the World Cup. The HD feed is more expensive to produce and uplink, but DTH operators can make this worthwhile by paying for this feed, and then it's down to the subscriber to embrace the concept. If you are a cricket fan, it is worth every rupee.
Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo